Rice Etiquette


What a rare treat to be making Of All The People In All The World again. It is performed regularly but for one reason or another I don’t seem to go out with it very often, so it was great to be in Basel this week for its installation and opening.

Usually my role during the get-in is close to the table shaping the show and because I am usually returning home after the opening and missing the performance, I tend not to have a great deal to do with the local performers. On this occasion Craig was at the table and I found myself starting to do bits of induction for the new performers, as well as being fun this also reminded me of the subtle code of etiquette involved in performing the show. This preferred way of doing things has built up over time and although some of it is collated in a performer’s handbook much and like an apprenticeship is best learned whilst performing.

Early on the opening night a small child stood on a sheet of A4 paper, which had a small pile of rice on it. The dampness of their bare foot caused the sheet to adhere and as they moved their foot so the rice went flying. Mortified the child’s father tried to make good, but that’s not his job, a performer had to step in and remember a few key points.

Sweep every grain up, if you are not confident you have all the rice it should be re-counted or re-weighed. Never walk with rice balanced on a sheet of paper, always transfer it to a bowl. If paper is damaged it must be replaced. Never leave a labelled sheet of paper on the floor without its statistic on it. Ideally if replacing a sheet the rice for that sheet should be left in place in a bowl, this looks good so don’t rush to replace the sheet of paper.

It is difficult to make the switch from ‘get-in mode’ to ‘performance mode’. In the get in you are trying to do as much as possible as quickly as possible to the highest possible level. In performance mode you need to ease off. As Craig pointed out standing or walking around with a warm but slightly proprietorial air is often a good use of your time. It would be fun to stay and walk this walk and enjoy the more deeply considered shaping of the show once it is open, but needs must, there are things to do back in Birmingham and another version of the show to see in London.

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